Following a highly-acclaimed sold-out tour in the United Kingdom, Cameron Mackintosh‘s spectacular new production of Andrew Lloyd Webber‘s phenomenal musical Phantom of the Opera opened at Blumenthal Performing Arts Center’s Belk Theater on February 4 and runs through February 15. This Phantom features a brilliant new scenic design by Tony Award winner Paule Constable. Although the current production have some upgrades, to include the set and special effects, the beloved story, the beautiful costumes, and thrilling songs like Music of the Night, All I Ask Of You, and Masquerade remain the same. And who could forget the show’s legendary chandelier, which I had a chance to view during a backstage tour. I also was privileged to interview two of its phenomenal cast members, Jacquelynne Fontaine, who portrays Carlotta Giudicelli and Storm Lineberger, who portrays Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny.
What do you like the most about performing in Phantom of the Opera?
Phantom allows me to combine a lot of things that I pursued in my life. Opera is paramount. I spent a lot of time in Italy and Carlotta is an Italian opera star. One of the reason I was drawn to theater and studied theater is because I love the history of the costumes. I think that Carlotta has the best costumes. It really gets to combine so many things. Plus the colleagues are fantastic. It’s really gorgeous music. I grew up…like a lot of us in opera, who lived through this music for the majority of our lives. So, it kind of intrinsic. It’s really great to be a part of it.
How long have you been playing the role of Carlotta?
We started rehearsal in October 2013. I was very fortunate to be a part of that original cast where we work shopped it and got to create the roles ourselves and give our take on it in this new production. So, I’ve been doing it a year and a couple of months now. It’s really fun and I am still loving it.
Where are your from originally?
Southern California, just north of Los Angeles. I did my grad work in LA.
Do you have any formal acting training?
The first two years of college, I wanted to be an actress. So I studied…I almost have a Bachelors in Theatre. But, I got the bug for music…opera combined music and theatre. That’s what inspired me to go in that direction.
Was there ever any pressure to choose between classical music and theater?
Absolutely! I think it was making that choice. I love the challenge of classical music. Opera really did combine it. With Phantom, when I left grad school, I got cast in an operetta, The Student Prince – kind of musical theatre, kind of opera. I was juggling with one foot in opera and doing La Traviatta and A Little Night Music. I said, “This is so fun!” It combines both – it combines the classical training. It was going to be hard to go back to opera, because it’s (theater) so fun! You get to see every age coming to the theater. You get to see little girls dressed as princesses and you get to see their grandparents coming with them. A lot of time in opera, you don’t get to see that kind of range. With Phantom you get that.
What other musical have you performed?
I did The King and I. That’s my favorite role, Anna in the King and I. I also did Charlotte in A Little Night Music and Elsa in The Sound of Music. I seem to always get cast as the mean and snotty person, I guess it’s the opera training. In addition, I’ve done a lot of Mozart operas.
Does your love of Phantom go back far?
Yes, I would be playing video games and be playing it on loop. It’s funny, I would always skip over Prima donna, which is the song that I perform. I always skipped over the part that I am now singing. I wanted to hear Think of Me, Wishing, and Music of The Night. But now it’s (Prima donna) my favorite part.
Any aspirations for Broadway?
Oh Yeah! Definitely! When The King and I came out on Broadway, I said, “Oh my goodness!” There is a lot of roles for classically trained singers on Broadway right now like Gentleman’s Guide…a lot of things are popping up. If Broadway came knocking, I would not say “no thank you”.
How long is this current tour?
The tour is booked for the next five years, at least. I am so excited because we are going back to the West Coast and I get to see all my family and friends. I am excited to see how this plays out. Of course it’s Phantom of the Opera…people love it. It’s gorgeous music…I think it’s going to continue!
What significant changes does this current version of Phantom of the Opera have in comparison to the original?
It is not different in the aspect of the music, plot or costumes. But, instead we have updated the sets and the lighting. When it was originally created 30 years ago, they used the most advanced materials that they had. And now 30 years later, we have a filmic foundation in which to build. Everything sort of bleeds into the other.
For additional information concerning Jacquelynne, visit her website: http://www.JacquelynneFontaine.com
Favorite Credits: (Lyric) Theatre of Oklahoma, (Prince Eric) Disney’s The Little Mermaid, (Feuilly) Les Miserables, (Roscoe Dexter) Singin’ in the Rain
What attracted you to Phantom?
One thing you find…what makes it so great…is what makes it so easy! In that it’s easy to connect to him and to connect to the story. When that’s simple, everything else works.
What do you like most about the character, Raoul?
He’s kind of…he’s a little snarky. He got some edge! However, he is not the pushover that some people think of him as being. I have taken that and ran with it.
How is it different from any other role that you have performed?
It’s certainly the most British role I’ve ever played, even though I am not speaking in a British accent. The British elite has a certain class and a lift to them. And, it’s something I had to rehearse and take ballet class for it to refine… in that aspect it has been completely new.
Where are you from originally?
South Texas – San Antonio.
What do think has made Phantom of the Opera such a classic and iconic musical that has stood the test of time in all these years?
Well, I think the first thing without question is Andrew Lloyd Webber‘s romantic lush score. It really tugs your heartstrings without sounding cliché. But secondly, it’s the phantom himself. I feel people really connect with the idea that you can sort of feel isolated sometimes. And when he finds that someone really has compassion for him…that really lifts him up. And sort of also the idea deciding between two sides of yourself. Do you sacrifice yourself or go with the person you love? I feel that each of the main characters really have to do that. Even down to Carlotta, she has to suck it up and let Christine shine, even though she should. And, it’s really well-written in the sense that each character has their own journey. I think it helps the audience sort of find their own story within it.
Have you had any classical music training?
I was trained in Musical Theater, that’s my degree in school. We receive classical training within that but I wasn’t trained classically, per se.
Any formal acting training?
I just graduated from the University of Oklahoma, with a BFA in Musical Theater. I’m 22 years old.
Are you a longtime fan of Phantom of the Opera?
It was the first show I ever saw. I was a fan from the beginning! It’s iconic and I wanted to play this role after the first time I performed it…and here I am.
With this being your first tour, what have you learned about touring?
It’s a machine. It’s going to go on with or without you. I mean that technically, and the songs, it’s pretty much an opera. There is very little speech. And so if you are not on that train, it is not stopping.
Is this your first tour?
Yes, this is pretty much my first job.
What is your favorite part of the Phantom?
My favorite part is when the phantom has to make his decision. It’s the most iconic show of all times. Even being on stage, I kind of get lost in that. It’s very exciting!
Storm’s Favorite Credits: (Lyric) Theatre of Oklahoma, (Prince Eric) Disney’s The Little Mermaid, (Feuilly) Les Miserables, (Roscoe Dexter) Singin’ in the Rain
Tickets can be purchased on-line at http://www.blumenthalarts.org or at the box office located at 130 North Tryon, Charlotte, NC 28202